Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thanksgiving Day Lover/Under RESULTS

The turkey was moist, the stuffing was dry and the family that never disappoints didn’t. What’s become my own little social experiment with my in-laws has, yet again, provided holiday humor for us all to enjoy. This year's over/under predictions tell the tale of family dysfunction which we all of are frighteningly familiar.

The number of times “Gus,” my new 3-month-old Pug had “an accident” on my in-laws new downstairs carpeting: three “accidents” on the new carpeting highlighted the holiday
Incidents that involve children crying: six crying incidents from children, mostly involving the Wii.
Incidents that involve adults crying: four crying incidents from adults, mostly involving each other.
UNDER 18 – Cigarettes secretly smoked while "taking out Gus": 12 cigarettes. Didn’t know brother-in-law quit last month.
Major announcements that someone is pregnant (This has happened for the past six years, I’m NOT kidding): 0 — It’s a miracle! No one pregnant.
Minutes late that “Lunch/Dinner” is actually served: 86 minutes late — a new record!
Total Score of Tennessee/Detroit game: 57 — Detroit is going to make history by winning zero games.
Total Score of Seattle/Dallas game: 43 — meaningless score by Seattle ruined this pick.
Total Score of Arizona/Philadelphia game: 68 — Arizona had better find some D-fense before the playoffs.

Another “Turkey Day” in the books for the in-laws and me! I hope everyone had a great holiday before the tryptophan kicked in leading to hours of relatively uncomfortable couch sleep.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Day Over/UnderPredictions

I love Thanksgiving Day and all the predictability that comes with it. Each year, the family and I make the annual trek up north to an often snow-infested part of northwest Indiana dubbed “The Region.” This would be her family — an entire house filled with people that I haven’t seen since last year’s festivities. Oh what joy! The real entertainment will begin when I start checking off the list of this year’s over/under predictions:

5 — The number of times that Gus, my 3-month old Pug has “an accident” on my in-laws new downstairs carpeting.

7 — Incidents that involve children crying.

2 — Incidents that involve adults crying.

3 — Bottles of wine consumed throughout the day.

18 — Cigarettes secretly smoked while “taking out Gus.”

1 — Major announcement that someone is pregnant. (This has happened for the past six years, I’m NOT kidding.)

60 — Minutes late that lunch/dinner is actually served.

34 — Total score of Tennessee/Detroit game.

40 — Total score of Seattle/Dallas game.

47 — Total Score of Arizona/Philadelphia game.

I will promise to observe keenly and report back on these predictions for those of you who are playing the home version of the game.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

— Christopher S. Gray, Sr.
General Manager/Director of Golf Course Operations
Marvel Golf Club, Benton, Ky.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Will Parts of Your Golf Course Disappear?

I visited Kirtland (Ohio) Country Club not long ago. They were amid a bunker renovation, and they discovered that some bunkers were missing from the original designs of C.H. Alison in 1921. Superintendent Chad Mark surmised that some were filled in during the Great Depression to diminish labor costs.

It made me wonder if superintendents would be considered visionaries today if they started filling in bunkers around their golf courses as economists allude to a global economic downturn that could rival the loss of wealth experienced in the 1930s.

Are you doing anything drastic to your golf course to reduce maintenance or mitigate costs?

— David Frabotta

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Economic Headaches Continue

I've been swearing a lot lately. The profanities fly every time I read the financial news, shop for luxuries like milk and hamburgers, and especially when I check my 401k.

And I’m not alone. Everyone from Joe the plumber to Donald Trump is talking in no uncertain terms about the flailing financial markets and the struggling general economy.

During the past month or so, stock brokers have permanently solidified the perception that they are an overpaid, fickle mob. Did Kevin Stone break onto the trading floor and put level-headed traders in a trance of wild unpredictability? It’s like everyone contracted some sort of contagious fiscal bipolar disorder.

How are you dealing with the wild undulations with your wealth, be it your home value or stock portfolios? How long before wealth returns to the same levels, and how long before golf rides on the tails of that prosperity to stability?

— David Frabotta, Senior Editor

Monday, September 22, 2008

Help! I Need Someone to Soothe My Economic Fears

Oil was back up on Monday, Sept. 22. Way up. Oil prices jumped more than $25 a barrel — the biggest dollar jump ever — before dropping a tad. It closed at $120.92 a barrel, up $16.37 from Friday's close. I just read a story on where oil expert Matt Simmons says a barrel will hit $500 before we know it. That number is not a typo.

I must say that oil prices and the current happenings on Wall Street have me more than concerned for my and my family's future. It's all pretty scary. How are you dealing with all of this crazy financial news? HELP!

— Larry Aylward, Editor in Chief

So, Who's Going To Bail Me Out?

If you’re like many Americans voicing their disdain over the government’s proposed bailout of the banking sector, you might be wondering why fiscal irresponsibility is being rewarded with huge chunks of cash.

I couldn’t be angrier about spending hard-earned taxpayer money to bail out corporations that gambled greedily and failed. I pay my mortgage, and private mortgage insurance, I might add. Where is all the PMI for these high-risk loans?

However, the alternative seems bleak. Without the bailout, economists say we very well could slump into the worst economic depression since the 1930s. They called that one The Great Depression, and this one could be greater when you consider the global repercussions.

But there is a bright spot for superintendents: access to dandelions. Dandelions were the most-consumed vegetable in the 1930s. They are very nutritious and plentiful. So go easy on the 2,4-D.

— David Frabotta

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Somebody Explain It To Me, Please

Perhaps I was just raised differently or possibly in a better environment than others, but I simply do not understand what type of perverse pleasure or sense of satisfaction a person gets from vandalizing a putting green.

No matter how many times I get that phone call describing the scarring damage that someone has inflicted on one of my nineteen “other children,” my mind always leaps to the same unanswered question: Why? What is at the root of one of the most vicious acts that strike at the heart of any well-manicured golf course?

Is it frustration? I have missed my fair share of gut-wrenching putts while golfing, but none that would ever make me take out my car keys and cut around the cup to make it larger. Nor have I ever felt so compelled to take the flag stick and repeatedly poke multiple holes across the green making it resemble Swiss cheese.

Normally I am a guy who can understand most rationales in this confusing world, but vandalism never has, and probably never will, make one ounce of sense to me in any way, shape or form. It’s simply a sad reality that we all must deal with from time to time.

What's the most senseless crime you've experience on your course, and have you ever been able to ascertain why?

— Christopher S. Gray Sr.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My New Golf Course Supplier: eBay

Last week I was having some serious electrical problems with a front-deck mower. So much in fact, I quickly realized I needed the technical manual, which I didn’t have. I picked up the phone and called my local distributor and asked how much the manual was going to run me. “That manual is $139.50,” I heard from the other end. “Alright, I’ll let you know,” I responded half-heartedly. After mentally cursing the manufacturer, another idea popped in my head: I should check eBay.

Over the years, I have probably spent thousands of dollars on useless crap that I should have never bought on everyone's favorite auction site. Admitting I had a problem was the first step. So I said to myself, “Let’s see what the eBay community has to offer in the way of front deck mower technical manuals.” My search terms yielded a result of 63 items. After looking closer at the results, I found the technical manual I needed. The auction was ending in 13 hours and no one had bid on it yet. In short, I bid and won the manual…for $10.00 plus $12.50 shipping (This manual is really heavy).

I spent $22.50 for the same thing that the manufacturer wanted $139.50 for.

I started looking around eBay and have found other supplies I need for my course that include irrigation parts, tri-plex parts, rotary blades, and the list goes on and on. For anyone looking to save some cash and stretch your budget, check out eBay and see what they have. Just stay away from the useless crap … if you can.

— Christopher S. Gray Sr., director of golf operations for Marvel Golf Club in Benton, Ky.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Consumer Confidence in Scary Territory

Amid the highest unemployment rate in four years and the lowest consumer confidence since 2002, consumers are closing their wallets.

Consumer spending fell 0.2 percent, the largest drop since February, the Commerce Department revealed Aug. 4. The decline comes despite a $168-billion stimulus plan that includes income tax rebates.

Some of the blame is being attributed to inflation. The Consumer Price Index, which measures prices at the retail level, is up 5 percent in the trailing 12 months, the largest one-year increase since 1991.

Add a volatile investment climate, mortgage troubles and skyrocketing food and energy costs — the CPI excludes food and energy inflation — and one has to wonder how much money might be left for golf.

The National Golf Foundation has reported fewer rounds across most golf properties, but the largest declines reside in public facilities, where play is down 2.5 percent so far this year. Play at private clubs fell 1.8 percent this year.

What do you see in your market? Are daily fee courses suffering more than country clubs?

— David Frabotta, Senior Editor

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What Are You Doing to Save Gas?

I’m no Einstein, but conservationists and economists are telling us we can save gas — and cut down on our demand for it — if we drive a little slower. This will help gas prices to stabilize or even drop because demand will outweigh supply.

Now, I know this issue is a political issue as much as it is a supply and demand issue, but I decided I’m going to do my part and slow down on the highways to save fuel — and save money for myself. And let me point out that slowing down in this case basically means driving the speed limit, which nobody goes these days on the interstates.

Well, I quickly discovered I’m not a very popular person for easing up on the gas. Everybody is passing me by. Everybody! Just the other day I was going 60 mph in a 60 mph zone and somebody blew by me during evening rush-hour traffic at about 70 and flipped me the bird for driving “slow.” The jerk in a hurry probably made it home two minutes before I did — and used a half a tank more gas for having a lead foot.

I wonder if $7 a gallon — which “experts” say will be here in a few years — will get people to slow down to save a few bucks.

By the way, what are you doing at your golf course to save fuel?

— Larry Aylward

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My Stupid Work Excuses

I haven’t always been a model employee. I was young once, too. So there was a time when I figured that life owed me a little more than I was getting, so I would take things — like days off from work.

We’ve published dozens of excuses that superintendents have sent us from their crews, and it got me thinking about some of the reasons I played hooky.

I never lied, mind you. I never really thought it was worth it. But I was a giant flake at times. Like the time I went through the drive-through for lunch and saw a hitch-hiker standing by the freeway when I was on the way back to work. “Surely this was a noble cause that my boss would understand,” I thought to myself. So I pulled over.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“Pennsylvania,” he replied.

“Hop in.”

He was fresh out of jail on drug charges. I was taking him across state lines. But it didn’t seem as risky as calling my Type-A personality boss to tell him I wasn’t coming back for the afternoon. Needless to say, he didn’t deem the act as honorable as I did.

It wouldn’t be the only time brutal honesty got me in trouble. While working for the same manager, I called early in the morning on a gorgeous July day to leave the following message:

“Good morning Jeff, hope you are doing well. I decided it is just too damn nice outside to come to work today, so I’m going golfing. See you tomorrow.”

The next day, he had a message of his own for me. It went something like this: “Dave, we have three personal days at this company, and when you take them, I don’t want to know why.”

Check out our favorite excuses at and send us more of your favorites.

— David Frabotta

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

We All Need Some Compassion

We try to dodge illness and suffering all our lives. But really bad things still happen to people. Things you don’t want to hear or think about because you’re too busy trying to be happy.

I try to remember that when I’m driving amid road ragers or grocery shopping around people who clearly have a biting contempt for humanity. I often wonder “Man, what’s their problem?”

Truth is, I probably don’t really want to know. Many people have huge crosses to bear, and no one wears badges that say, “Diagnosed with cancer,” or “My daughter is missing.”

A guy from Texas once told me, “You have to respect the right of others to be in a hurry.” I’m not sure if it’s a local saying, but it made sense to me. And taking it further, people are permitted to be in rotten moods sometimes. You never know what they’re going through, and a few unsolicited kind words might keep someone from losing faith in themselves for just one more day. Don’t we owe each other that much as a society?

Your crew is a micro society. Someone is always happy, sad, tired, lazy and eager. It’s easy to get frustrated with apathy and moodiness, but sometimes, they just might have a good reason for a healthy dose of compassion.

Ever embarrass yourself when an employee has a good reason to slough off?

Monday, June 02, 2008

How's the Housing Market Doing Where You Live?

I recently sold my house after it was on the market for seven months. I didn't get what I wanted for it, but I was satisfied with the sale knowing that there are some good deals to be had out there for an upgrade.

I'm amazed, however, at how many people have told me "congratulations!" on the selling of my house. It's like I won the lottery or something! (Believe me, I didn't hit it big on this transaction.)

The housing crisis hasn't been in the news lately as much as it was in previous months. But I get the feeling -- especially when people are congratulating me for selling my house -- that the market is still enduring tough times, at least where I live.

How's the housing market doing where you live? Any sign of a turnaround? Let us know by blogging here.

-- Larry Aylward

Friday, April 11, 2008

We Have An Intimate Little Industry

I like to follow golf because the fans know the players by their first names. From the time Arnie hits the ceremonial first drive at Augusta National, followers flock to Tiger and Phil to see superstars in the flesh.

It somehow makes me feel connected when Davis answers to his first name and Retief stops to sign autographs. The Masters is my favorite tournament to watch because so many generations attend and compete, from Jack and Gary to Bubba, Boo and Camillo. I’m even looking forward to seeing which putter Sergio brought and if Padraig can follow-up his Major victory.

I picked Hunter as my dark horse to cause mayhem for the rest of the field at Augusta, and I’ll always root for Vaughn to win the tournament to which he grew up so close.

What’s your favorite part of the Masters?

Monday, March 31, 2008

If You Can Throw Snowballs, It's Too Early For Baseball

Baseball’s opening day is a mixed blessing in Cleveland. No other day in all of sports imbues the city’s sports fans with such hope and sincere anticipation, especially this year as its playoff team returns intact.

Conversely, snow piles still encroach on the corners of parking lots, and Lake Erie is still frozen so thick that you can drive to Canada.

I remember going to opening day with my old man, each of us bundled as though we were going to see a gridiron grudge match instead of the boys of summer. It was the days of the old Municipal Stadium, a cavernous 100,000-capacity monstrosity where the wind would whip like your own personal arctic blast that rendered you hypothermic at some point in the second inning.

Fans commonly wore hunting gear and snow mobile suits. Vendors hustled more hot chocolate and coffee than beer, and I would eat a mound of jalapeƱos with my nachos just to feel a bead of sweat on my brow, even if just for a moment.

As I grew older, it became less fun. But I was loath to admit it to Dad. After all, time together was increasingly sparse as I sought independence. One year, I had to make my displeasure known as the forecast called for enough snow that the grounds crew carried shovels instead of brooms.

“Dad,” I started hesitantly. “Would you mind if maybe I took a rain check for opening day and maybe we could go to a game together in, say, July?”

Dad looked at me with a long, blank stare. I couldn’t read him. Then he spoke.
“Thank God,” he muttered. “I didn’t want to disappoint you, but I’m getting too old for this.”

“I’ve never liked opening day,” I said with a fear I might have nullified an important ongoing memory and time-honored tradition.

“Neither have I,” he said. “I wish you would have told me that 10 years ago. I’m cold just thinking about it.”

— David Frabotta, Senior Editor

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Are We In a Recession? What Do You Think?

We may already be in one, but an "official" report says the weakening U.S. economy is slipping into a recession. A gauge of future economic activity dropped in February for the fifth consecutive month, according to the Conference Board.

Are you concerned about the golf industry's economic health? Why or why not? We want to hear from you.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Marriott Singled Out in ADA Suit

Litigation surrounding the single-rider golf car issue isn't going to wait for the Department of Justice to issue a ruling.

A federal judge ruled Jan. 28 that Marriott International’s golf division is in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act because it failed to provide “accessible” or “single-rider” golf cars to disabled persons at its managed properties, according to court documents.

Plaintiffs in the case are Lawrence Celano, Richard Thesing and William Hefferon, disabled golfers. They did not pursue monetary damages in the case, which really makes them look like the good guys in this case.

Marriott will end up paying several million dollars in legal fees to lose this case, and the company likely will be required to furnish the single-rider golf cars anyway.

But Marriott will not be the only ones. In a conversation with Golfdom, Thesing says he's going after other large management companies, too.

Should this be a battle? Doesn't golf have enough problems fighting the perception of exclusionary practices?

Economics and Golf

The economic news yesterday was not good. Consumer confidence is down. Meanwhile, wholesale inflation soared, just not like Superman in this case.

The New York-based Confidence Board reported Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index sank to 75.0 in February from 87.3 in January. It’s the lowest level since February 2003 when it hit 64.8. Analysts had expected the latest reading to hit about 83.0.

The Consumer Confidence Index measures how consumers feel about the economy, which in this case is not very good.

How could this affect the golf market in 2008? Rounds were down about a half percent in 2007. The economic experts say consumers shut their wallets when their confidence is down. Does that mean they’ll play less golf?

What are your thoughts?

— Larry Aylward